Lana and I met Ben and Zulu at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge. What an amazing Ranger / Tracker team who were to host us for the next few days in possibly one of the finest big game viewing areas in the World, the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, located in the south eastern sector of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.
Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, the largest of their four Lodges, has 25 spacious thatched Chalets set on either side of the central main lodge area, all in indigenous gardens which seemingly dissolve into the riparian bush of the now (winter) dry watercourse and open plains beyond. The ‘obligatory’ bougainvillea hangs tenuously to a huge Greenthorn presenting its magnificent cerise flowers to brighten Africa’s somber winter attire. Thatched roofs, king sized beds, private courtyards, private comfortable lounge, private bush view patio, opulent bathrooms with indoor and outdoor showers, Charlotte Rhys soaps, lotions and conditioners, bath robes and slippers, a stocked bar fridge, a crystal decanter with sherry and all necessary refinements to make ones stay comfortable. Exquisite ethnic décor, the epitome of a Bushveld Chalet retreat.
To the Main Lodge – decks, lounges with Wi-Fi, entertainment centre, bar - this room with its flickering fire and cold drinks, proved very popular on our return from the evening game drive, before the Boma dinner, this heralded by the trumpeting of a Kudu horn. In the Boma strategically placed fires kept away the night chill and did so add to the ambience under that canopy of stars - plated starters and then the most magnificent buffet. Seafood, venison and more traditional fare – indulgent.
One evenings meal
Vegetable rice paper roll with green coconut cream, crushed wasabi peas, baby leaves and sweet soya.
Carrot and ginger soup
Springbok shank potjie.
Ostrich skewers with chilli and cumin
Beef sirloin with herbs and garlic with mustard sauce
Biltong crusted chicken breast with blue cheese sauce
Kingklip with lemon and basil, salsa and lemon butter
Hassel back potatoes
Yellow rice with rasins
Glazed carrots and parsnips
Broccoli and cauliflower
Pak choi mushrooms
Desserts - cheeses
Wines to suit, the house wine is from the Stellenrust Estate in the Cape and quite delicious. Followed by dessert , cheese and biscuits and possibly a night-cap. I always wondered why we needed to be escorted back to our chalets?
On one of the evenings we had Calamari Tubes with.. and then imagine, a Kudu Wellington as the venison option! Divine
The Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge main deck has a warm northerly aspect overlooking open savanna with conveniently located water-hole, at which the passing parade come to slake their thirst. My favorite spot to sit and observe, between the meals, game drives, meals, teas and slumber time. Meals, yes, such an important aspect at any fully catered for establishment ,were exceptional with hot and cold buffet for breakfasts and lunch, the tilapia fish one luncheon was seriously good, but so were the mini Quiches, the parma ham platter, Tortilla Station, and.. what a choice, then the afternoon ‘teas’ just prior to the game drive, simply decadent fare to die for !. “No more".. .."well could I have another of your brownies, maybe rather an éclair? oh dear!” these were something else.
Great attention to detail, friendly and unobtrusive staff, there when needed with guests requirements a priority, is what all the Sabi Sabi Lodges quietly accomplish. Guests are kept informed as to the Lodge program and even the following days’ weather with possible temperatures, beautifully printed on a card, there at your bedside on return from dinner.
All the Sabi Sabi Lodges traverse on approximately 6,000 ha of their own prime Sabi Sand Game Reserve with no fences between Sabi Sabi, the Sabi Sands or the Kruger National Park. All Sabi Sabi vehicles maintain radio contact to assist with finding the animals during the 4 odd hours of being out there, amongst the Big Game. And Big game there certainly is, along with a host of other animal and birdlife. Ben brought the wildlife encounters to a heightened level with insights as to the various animals’ behavior or some other relevant interesting snippet of information. Zulu had an amazing ability to locate and interpret the myriad of tracks and to find that prize sighting. We had a number of those. A miniscule reflection from the spotlight and leopard on the hunt discovered. Being prediminatly nocturnal most photographic opportunities were in poor light, so rather sit back and enjoy the sighting!
Leopard on a steenbuck kill, leopard on the prowl, leopard on a kudu kill (she seems to have been responsible for the cows demise - quite a large animal for a youngish female leopard to succumb), leopard marking his territory, leopard seeking out warthog in their underground retreats, leopard…..
Oh yes and then there were lion too, a pride of some 17, ranging in ages and so awake and mobile. These lion I prefer!
With lion normally choosing to spend the most of their time in repose, to have so many, all active, playing, nursing, fighting, socializing, this was a special treat.
But active animals can sometimes be a negative, especially wild dog on the hunt. They have the incredible ability to sustain the hunt for ages and at such a pace too. We just could not keep up, despite the Land Rover bundu-bashing after them. Sabi Sabi’s new Land Rover Safari vehicles reaffirmed my contention that this has to be the most comfortable Safari vehicle available – good choice guys!
Mind you Sabi Sabi makes many good choices and have refined the archtypical wildlife bush lodge experience to make the most of one’s enjoyment thereof. For those who would want a tad more; expansive accommodation, private pool, in room dining ? easy take the Mandleve Presidential suite, visit the Amani spa at the Lodge, your children to the wonderful child entertainment centre and voila!
Mid winter and it’s pretty chilly out there on an open Land Rover safari vehicle, but amongst the folds of your personal blanket is a piping hot water bottle. Oooh! Makes all the difference. Stop for sundowners, delicious snacks with drinks! Spacious too, with only 6 guests on a vehicle, there was room for all, our camera bags too. Rather necessary on these game drives.
For those wanting a smaller, possibly more intimate camp, Little Bush Lodge is a delightful option. Hosting just 12 guests in 6 luxurious Chalets on the banks of the Msuthlu River, still with water in the river below some of the chalets - this intimate Lodge offers a luxurious relaxed venue where one can really get away from it all. The thatched chalets are super comfortable, with beautiful mosquito net draped beds, air-conditioning, private deck which has a heated Spa bath and the bathrooms are sumptuous, even offering indoor and outdoor showers.
Cross the river and to the delightful nearby swimming-pool retreat, I could relax my time away here! To cosy up of a cold evening, the lounge area is where you would find me. Imagine a candle-lit dinner at tables set on the riverbed just below the Lodge – romantic, I’d say! Or maybe in the Boma the next night. Multiple dinner venues I love.
An old trading store / railway shop on the now defunct Selati Railway Line of old, built to service and carry the spoils of the goldfields to the coast, was the base for Sabi Sabi’s Selati Lodge. Being a bit of a Railway nut I loved the Salati Rail memorabilia in the lounge and bar.
Eight lovely thatched chalets, epitomizing Colonial charm, paraffin lamps and décor, offer a turn of the Century elegance. (There is electricity for the air-conditioning, fans, fridges and lights) Then beautiful bird filled gardens with an outlook into wide open plains beyond – what a view! Are those the wild dog running by?
At Sabi Sabi Lodges there is always an option to relax and join with other guests in the main lounging areas or find a quiet comfortable more isolated and private place.
Meals here are a treat too. Candle lit dinners on the deck overlooking the ephemeral Msuthlu River, or in the Boma, or what about the characterfull “Farmhouse Kitchen” with its single long table making for a really ‘social’ evening!
Selati Camp also has the Ivory Presidential suite, tastefully decorated with original antiques, fireplace and private plunge pool. Here you would have a private Land Rover safari vehicle.
Earth Lodge is quite amazing. The architecture is classic, sculpted out of the sloping hillside with an intriguing unobtrusive hidden sunken entranceway – unique and environmentally sensitive.
There are twelve suites, in addition to the really magnificent Amber Presidential Suite. This attended by a Private Butler and beautifully appointed with specially commissioned furnishings, secluded plunge pool and open air shower. The Amber Suite also boasts its own exercise room, steam room, study and kitchen. The suites’ décor breaks with tradition and these are also most tastefully decorated. Great attention to detail and maximized for guest’s comfort. Each suite has its own plunge pool and the bathrooms are glass fronted with, in and outdoor showers.
The boma, its walls sculpted from roots has a really ethnic look where dinners are enjoyed under a canopy of stars. This is Africa at its best. There is the Earth Nature Spa and exercise centre where one may enjoy massages, natural therapies or a classic spa. A secluded library, art gallery and meditation garden all for your enlightenment and enjoyment. Back to Earth with the game drives though. These are as good as the Sabi Sands Game Reserve and Sabi Sabi can offer! What an experience. Highly recommended.